Inside the game
The cryo-ing game
SEA DIPS: Science or psychology?
How AFL clubs are maximising player recovery
Four clubs fought pitched battles for survival in the semi finals while their preliminary final opponents rested up. For the winners, recovery is everything, writes Dr Jodi Richardson.
EVER is it more important than game. during finals for players to do all This is the soreness you feel when you they can to recover well between move the damaged muscle or prod it games. just to keep checking if it is still tender. You had only to watch the Lions and This sort of soreness comes from Blues players limping and struggling inflammation in the muscle and can through the final quarter in the first last for a number of days, potentially round of the finals to understand just impeding a player’s ability to train at how great a physical toll a final can take. their full potential. The high intensity of an AFL final Other factors affecting players include creates huge physical and physiological dehydration and depletion of their demands on players’ bodies. energy stores both in the muscle cells Lions Simon Black and Daniel as well as depletion of glycogen stored Bradshaw passed late fitness tests in in the muscles and liver. Glycogen is a the lead-up to the elimination final and stored form of glucose and is an energy after another tough week needed to be source used for prolonged exercise such able to bounce back in the six-day break as during an AFL game. before their next game. Sam Rosengarten, injury prevention It’s questionable whether Brisbane co-ordinator at Carlton, said that recovwould have made it across the line if ery was a vital part of every player’s it wasn’t for Bradshaw’s five goals and weekly routine. Black’s 29 possessions. Recovery is extensively planned and Although many variables can affect timetabled by the high performance a player’s fitness from week to week, manager and the medical recovery strategies put into action after staff. match day are one thing that clubs take Players conduct very seriously. most of their recovery A well-planned recovery regime is as a team but at times essential to enable players to balindividuals may need ance the stress of senior football to break away from with both training and recuthe group. peration. Rosengarten said High intensity exercise the job of the supstresses an athlete’s body port staff was to get in a number of ways. the best performance A player will usually out of the pull up after a game players on with muscle tension, a week-toas well as exerciseweek basis. induced muscle dam“ W e age. want to This consists give players of micro-tears in the best opportunity muscles that lead of performing at to delayed-onset their peak right muscle soreness, usuthroughout the ally appearing in the s e a -s o n BRADSHAW: Recovery was vital. 12 to 24 hours after the a n da n y
aspects we can change or modify to help them get the best out of their bodies is our No.1 priority,” he said. The recovery regime for Carlton includes a range of strategies such as any necessary medical treatment overseen by club doctor Ben Barresi, nutrition and hydration, soft tissue work such as massage, and active recovery. The medical review of players determines the extent of any injuries, the need for any imaging such as MRI, the need for any referrals to specialists, and the treatment regime for that player. The nutrition and hydration needs of players are directed strongly by the club physiologist Johann Bilsborough. Rosengarten said that post-game treatment was available for players in the form of massage, myotherapy and physiotherapy, providing great benefits. Management of the acute phase of injuries sustained during the match is pivotal to aiding a speedy recovery. Techniques such as icing and compression are most commonly applied. Active recovery at Carlton involves players engaging in low intensity activities such as walking or exercise bike riding. Recovery practices of this nature are effective in “stimulating lymphatic return and clearing metabolites (essentially waste products) from the muscle”. The lymphatic system is responsible for protection against infection and disease but also the distribution of nutrients and waste products to the circulatory system. The lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction to keep the lymph fluid moving. One recovery strategy that often evokes media interest is when a Melbourne team heads to the chilly waters of Port Phillip Bay to wade around as part of a recovery session. Scientifically this cold water immerInside Football
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‘The cold water reduces the player’s experience of pain rather than causing any actual physiological changes.’ sion is known as cryotherapy – cryo meaning cold or freezing. Some clubs engage in cryotherapy with the use of ice baths. Scientific research is somewhat conflicting when it comes to the physiological effectiveness of cryotherapy but Rosengarten said that benefits from such strategies were not always just physical. “Some of the documented benefits of cold water immersion are to do with player perception of muscular soreness,” he said. “The cold water reduces the player’s experience of pain rather than causing any actual physiological changes, so that’s more the focus of that treatment. “There is also the team bonding aspect where the playing group is walking around in the freezing water on a
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Saturday or Sunday morning after a game – it helps develop team camaraderie.” Rosengarten said there were some weird and wonderful strategies that players employed that they believed aided their recovery. He added that the Carlton support staff prided themselves on the application of evidence-based strategies and he focused on objective and quantitative or measurable improvement in player performance. “I spend time discussing other recovery practices with players and encourage them to put their faith in the science and the quality work that the club implements and if there is something out there that is going to improve their performance then I tell them to rest assured we’ll be all over it.”
AFL football takes a huge toll on players both physically and psychologically. Intelligent recovery strategies are crucial for players to be...